Let’s Get to Work: Generations & Career Choice

Today’s workforce is now comprised of different generations simultaneously working together. It’s important to understand a little about each generation and how they approach careers.

The Traditionalist Generation
This group includes individuals born between 1925 and 1945. They grew up with the impact of the depression, the influence of the military draft, World War II, and how it impacted their family. Hierarchy and rules, conformity, and working towards the same goal are valued. Dedication and sacrifice measure their success. Their work ethic and value are based on hard work, respect of authority, and following the rules. They best as individuals doing their part in a bigger cause.

Baby Boomers
Born between 1946 and 1964, these individuals grew up with the benefit of fewer rules and a more nurturing environment. They experienced many layoffs in their careers and are therefore known to “live to work.” “Boomers” feel excelling in their career is important and believe that success is only achieved through hard work (a.k.a., long hours), integrity, and beating the competition. They are influenced by civil rights, the Vietnam war, and first-time space travel. While Traditionalists never question authority, Baby Boomers to question everything, but not for the purpose of personal gain. It’s a desire to improve quality and a desire to win. They enjoy interaction and team play. This is the generation that created the culture of meetings.

Generation X
Born 1965 and 1981, this generation experienced turbulent economic times at key points in their lives. The economic downturn in the 1980s affected decisions about college and careers. The upswing in the 1990s affected their early career, and another downturn in the early 2000s impacted their family and overall future. Generation Xers value life outside of work. But they do that through a focus on career security vs. job security and are therefore more entrepreneurial with a goal of self-reliance. They feel a need to be in charge of their own destiny, and avoid the risk being a victim.

The Millennials/Generation Y
Born between 1982 and 1997, they represent the largest generation in today’s labor market. Many Millennials grew up with two working parents that became involved “helicopter” parents. Playtime shifted to play dates. Everything was controlled in their environment. A result of the working family enabled the impact of “refrigerator lists,” in which even “free time” was controlled. They are a generation of multi-taskers; work is simply a means to an end. Millennials are therefore a group that is motivated and goal-oriented. They are motivated to get tasks done because their goal is to enjoy life as soon as the job is complete. Growing up, this generation witnessed the horrors of terrorism in our own country with 9/11 and Boston, MA, bombings, as well as the impacts of school shootings and other mass murders.

Generation Z
Born in the mid to late 90s and beyond, Gen Zers are just starting to enter the workforce. According to Indeed.com, “Gen Z grew up in a world of geopolitical and economic turmoil; the oldest Gen Zers were only four when the events of 9/11 happened, and they watched their parents struggle with the stress brought on by the 2008 global economic recession.” They have a unique relationship with technology, having had access to smartphones since childhood, and no life without internet. They are hypervisual, multitaskers, with a desire for personalized experiences. Gen Zers crave connection and interpersonal relationships, along with flexible work formats and opportunities for training/development. They are job stability and success, and an empowering work culture and equality. Basically, practicality & idealism combined.

Knowing the experiences and influences of your own generation can empower you in your career search and planning! We have tools to help you dig into who you are and to help you determine the best career path for your student (or yourself)!